Friday, 1 February 2013

The “Judge Dredd is Gay” Issue of 2000AD, or Marketing Works Again!

Tharg, the alien-in-chief fictional editor of 2000AD, and his marketing team did their homework this week as headlines across numerous culture pages blared “Is Judge Dredd Gay?” in anticipation of that Wednesday’s (January 30) issue of 2000AD. The headline was eye-catching enough for me, along with numerous other fans of Dredd, clicked on it to be met with the image of Dredd frenching a guy.

Sacrilege! cried out the internet, Dredd’s not gay! My response was that this reeked of desperate publicity and I was right. Having read the story “Closet” told from the perspective of a gay young man in Mega City One, it’s revealed that the man attends an underground fetish club celebrating the most famous judge of them all, Dredd. It turns out the Dredd in the picture smooching up a storm wasn’t Dredd but a gay man in Dredd costume.

But the press had a fun couple of days pointing out that Dredd’s uniform was all leather and chains, hinting that he essentially wears fetish clothing and has done since his inception in the late 70s. Some readers’ reactions were quite ugly, stating plainly that they would stop reading the comic now that the flagship character turned out to be homosexual. I can understand their reaction up to a point. Not the homosexual angle – there’s nothing wrong with that – but that Dredd should have any sexuality at all seems uncharacteristic.

Dredd is the Law. He is Judge Dredd, asexual, almost robotic, in his approach to keeping the peace. Living to dispense justice. That he even thinks about sex seems a distant possibility. So to retcon the character into revealing he spent his off duty hours in gay bars seemed to go against everything we readers knew of Dredd after all these years. Dredd himself is, and never should be, sexual.

The publicity worked though. I went to my local Forbidden Planet last night to pick up a copy and they were sold out. Nowhere else seemed to stock it and my feeling was that if they did, they were sold out too. So I ended up buying a digital copy on 2000AD’s online store – but more on that experience in a moment.

From about 12 to 17 years old I bought and read 2000AD , the weekly comic and its many iterations and I loved the publication. Besides Dredd were amazing characters like Strontium Dog (2000AD’s version of the X-Men), ABC Warriors, Durham Red, Rogue Trooper, Vector 13, Slaine, and many more than I can recall off the top of my head. For whatever reason – youthful snobbery perhaps – I abandoned the publication, consigning literally all of my comics to a recycling plant and leaving comics behind for about 5 years (it would be Neil Gaiman’s Sandman that brought me back to the fold once and for all).

I always regretted that decision, not least because of all the money I’d spent on those comics and now had nothing to show for it besides happy memories, but because I’d like to now go back and re-read some of them. They weren’t all great but there was always a story or two within 2000AD’s pages that were pretty brilliant and it’d be fun to revisit those halcyon days once more. Maybe when I’m middle aged and sentimental I’ll track them all down once again. Maybe not.

Since then I’ve become a huge fan of comics once again, especially of the superhero comics published by DC and Marvel as well as the indie comics put out by Drawn & Quarterly, Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, and on this side of the pond (Britain) Jonathan Cape and Self Made Hero. So it was interesting that over 10 years after I gave up on 2000AD, I returned to see if Dredd was gay or not and to see what reading the magazine was like. Well – it’s short! The Dredd story was just a few pages. I’d forgotten that in 25-30 pages of comics, they put in about 5 series per issue so each series gets just a few short pages before you get “to be continued” – very unsatisfying.

But “Closet”’s message is hard to deny. There are lots of young people out there who know they are gay and are figuring out how best to let people know – especially their parents – of their sexuality, which unfortunately even in our modern, liberal society is still deemed controversial. The writer Rob Williams (who also wrote Marvel’s Daken series, the bisexual son of Wolverine who had no problem with his son’s sexuality so much as he did his son’s murderous attitude toward him!) writes the man as calm but sad because of who he is and what that’s done to his relationship with his father. But he becomes triumphant towards the end as he embraces his sexuality and finds the resolve to become his true self – soon.

It’s an important story if only because it’ll really mean something to some readers as well as once more put the issue of homosexuality back out into society, the prevalence of which might diffuse the term of its controversy and make people feel more comfortable with it. Viewed purely as a story? It’s not that great. A bit dull even. But, you sold an issue to an old fan, Tharg you green bastard, so mission accomplished, eh?

I bought it as a digital copy expecting it to be as easy to read as the comics I’ve bought at Comixology with its guided view technology which takes each panel as a separate “page” for easy viewing on my iPod. For larger images it zooms in on the parts of the text before zooming back so you can view the page as a whole. And the whole time you can zoom in on areas you want to look at more closely. It is the perfect way to read comics digitally.

2000AD doesn’t use guided view technology. You get each page as a whole, which on an iPod is ridiculous as it’s too small to fit on the screen. Instead I have to zoom in on individual panels myself, rotating and cropping until I can get the most comfortable fit on the screen before moving on to the next. Factor in the slowness of each new view as it becomes clearer and the fact that waiting for the image to clarify can lead to crashes so you have to reload the issue, find the page, find the panel, and zoom in on your last place AGAIN, and it is a disaster to read. Until 2000AD sort this out and adopt guided view or something approximating that experience, I can’t see myself buying another copy digitally in the near future. It’s too annoying.

So relax guys Dredd’s not gay in any sense of the word – he’s still the miserable, scowling lunatic whose helmet will never come off in any sense of the phrase.

1 comment:

  1. Dude, what a relieve... Thanx for this explanation.